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There are loads of ready made cold brew concentrates on the market these days but over time, buying them at the grocery store can get a little bit pricey.
If you are looking to save a little money, it’s actually very simple and economical to make your own cold brew coffee concentrate at home. You don’t even need any special equipment. Let me show you how to DIY it.
What is the difference between cold brew and cold brew concentrate
The main difference between cold brew coffee and cold brew concentrate is the ratio of coffee to water.
Now I hate those articles that make you wait for the recipe, but I do want to clear up one thing before we get to the actual process and that is the difference between cold brew coffee and cold brew concentrate.
I see a lot of recipes out there for cold brew coffee and it can be confusing because some of them yield a coffee that’s ready to drink and some yield a concentrate, and they don’t necessarily tell you which it is.
Cold brew coffee is made with a ratio where once strained it can be drunk immediately without any further modifications.
Cold brew concentrate is meant to be diluted with water. This can be an advantage in recipes and is also perfect for people who like to adjust the strength of their coffee. Maybe he likes it strong and she likes it less strong. No problem, make a concentrate and everyone can dilute it to suit their own tastes.
- Cold brew coffee is ready to drink
- Cold brew concentrate needs to be diluted, usually with an equal amount of water
A concentrate is also useful if you’re planning to add milk or other flavorings such as creamers while still maintaining a bold coffee flavor.
Typically, a concentrate is diluted 50/50 with water however some commercial products are even stronger than this. For example, Starbucks Cold Brew capsules are diluted into 8 ounces of water but only contain 1.35 ounces of concentrate. (I love these for traveling as I can easily make cold brew in my hotel room and I don’t even need a fridge).
A concentrate is also useful if you are making a hot cup of coffee, but prefer the flavor of cold extraction. Just add hot water to your concentrate instead of cool water.
DIY Cold Brew Concentrate-Make it at Home
48 oz. servings (prepared)
What You Will Need
1 c. ground coffee beans
2 c. water
A large container such as a mason jar, bowl, or pitcher (should hold 4 cups of liquid or more)
Something to strain with such as coffee filters, a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth, or a nylon coffee sock
- Measure out 1 cup of coarse ground coffee
- Place in a mason jar, pitcher, french press, or other container and add one cup of water
- Stir or swirl to wet all the grounds
- Add one more cup of water and place a lid on your jar or container
- Place in the fridge and steep for 12 to 24 hours, with 16 to 20 being the most commonly used steep time
- When steeping is complete, strain using a coffee filter or nut milk bag
- To make coffee, dilute one part concentrate with one part water. Taste and adjust with more water or more concentrate until the strength is just the way you like it.
- This recipe will yield just under 2 cups of concentrate (some water will remain in the strained grounds and filter but this is negligible.
- 2 cups of concentrate should give you four 8 oz. servings of cold brew coffee.
Notes for making great cold brew concentrate
Making cold brew concentrate is really no different than making cold brew coffee other than we will use much more coffee in relation to water. It’s all about proportions.
Let’s dig into the process a little more:
Step 1. Tips on Coffee Grind
Coarse grounds work best in cold brew because we don’t want to over-extract the coffee. Using coarse grounds reduces the surface area of coffee in contact with the water. If you are able to, grind your coffee yourself right before use for the freshest results.
If you don’t have a grinder, look for pre-ground coffee designed for cold brew which will usually already be coarsely ground. Don’t worry if you can’t find it though, regular ground coffee will work, but you may want to reduce steep time to 12-14 hours to compensate for the finer grind.
Step 2-4. Why pre-wet the grounds and add the water in stages?
One problem when mixing coffee with water is ensuring all the grounds are in contact with the water. This can particularly be a problem with pour over and drip methods of extraction where some of the coffee grounds may remain completely dry at the end—such a waste.
Just like making a gravy from a powder mix, mixing the coffee with a little water first helps to wet all the grounds evenly and then we can top it up with the remaining water. No floating coffee or pockets of dry grounds.
Step 5: Extraction safety and adjusting time and temperature
You can extract cold brew in as little as 2 hours at room temperature, or up to 24 hours in the fridge. I recommend using the fridge because anything with water can quickly start to grow micro-organisms.
Microbial growth slows at cooler temperatures and organisms are killed at very high (boiling) temperatures. Room temperature extraction is an ideal breeding ground.
Time and temperature are two important variables in making cold brew. Lower temperatures such as brewing in the fridge means longer steeping times. There is a diminishing return though, over-extraction can lead to a more bitter result.
Step 6: Best filter to use
A paper coffee filter or fine nut milk bag work best for straining coffee. I find paper works the best and provides a nice clear coffee with little to no residue.
A nut milk bag is a great eco-friendly (re-usable) option but can be difficult to keep clean. Coffee tends to get caught in the seams. I don’t recommend cotton bags, as even after repeated washing I find my coffee tastes a little like fabric.
Step 7: Preparing your coffee to drink
When you are ready to drink, add concentrate to a glass. Add any ice cubes, and top it off with water. Taste test and add more concentrate if it is too weak, or more water if it is still too strong.
More Q & A
What is the best ratio of coffee to water for cold brew concentrate?
Opinions on this vary, but I find that one part coffee to two parts water makes a concentrated brew that can be diluted 50/50 with water to create a regular strength brew.
I also find using a ratio like this instead of measurements makes it super simple to make any amount. No need to get out the scale to weigh your coffee and you can make as little or as much as you want. Just keep the 1:2 coffee to water ratio.
What kind of roast should I use?
Different roasts will yield different flavors. I recommend a medium roast coffee for cold brew, but it really is personal preference. Dark roasts may yield a more burnt and bitter flavor.
Do I need to grind the beans myself?
The best coffee, hot or cold, comes from freshly roasted beans that have been ground right before use.
If you don’t have access to a coffee grinder, you can use pre-ground coffee. Just check the date on the package and try to use coffee that has been roasted within the past 2 months.
Want weights and measurements (instead of ratios)? Try this recipe for a large batch of concentrate:
To create a large batch of concentrate, use a ratio of one 12 ounce bag of coffee coarsely ground and eight cups of water. You will need a large pitcher or an extra-large Mason jar to accomplish this. The yield of this will be about 7 ½ to 7 ¾ cups of finished concentrate or about 15 eight ounce servings.
How long will my concentrate keep in the fridge?
Many people feel that cold brew can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. This is because some of the oils that can go rancid are not extracted in cold brew.
Yet, due to the issues with water being a breeding ground for little beasties that I explained above, I recommend only making enough for no more than 1 week. But, if you want the best flavor make it in small batches and consume within a day or two.
Why should I make a concentrate instead of ready-to-drink? What else can you make with cold brew concentrate?
Here are some advantages to making your own concentrate:
- Save space in fridge. since this is a concentrate you can put it in a container that’s half the size that you would need for ready to drink strength.
- Make more coffee per batch. Instead of brewing for a day or two at a time you can brew for four to seven days with one batch if desired.
- For recipes. Concentrate is great for recipes like frappes, protein shakes, or to substitute in any recipe that calls for espresso.
As you can see, making a cold brew concentrate is no more complicated than any home cold brew. Just adjust the proportions to a two to one ratio of water to coffee and you are good. And remember my cardinal rule of home brewing:
If you brew it too strong, you can always dilute it but if you make it too weak, it’s a write-off.
So, don’t skimp on the coffee and have fun!